The Southern Environmental Law Center targeted the Savannah River as one of the top 10 endangered places in the southern U.S. http://bit.ly/x3C5Fg
On Thursday, the Charlottesville, Va.-based nonprofit legal advocacy group released its fourth annual list of places “that face immediate, potentially irreparable threats in 2012,” according to a press release.
The target areas were chosen based on their “exceptional scenic, ecological, or cultural value,” according to the SELC’s website.
Christopher K. DeScherer of the SELC’s Charleston office, said the Savannah River was chosen based on letters sent from various state and federal regulatory agencies criticizing a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen 38 miles of the Savannah River by six feet.
Agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources — as well as an expert hired by the SELC — have said the dredging will significantly harm surrounding freshwater wetlands and kill fish and other aquatic species by depleting oxygen levels in the river.
The law center claims deepening the shipping channel would increase saltwater intrusion in the river and destroy one-tenth of the remaining freshwater marshlands in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It will also jeopardize drinking water supplies for Savannah and other communities, and habitat for endangered aquatic species, the center said.
“The Savannah River is one of the most valuable ecological and economic assets in this region of the country and the proposal, as it stands, is one of the most serious threats to our region,” DeScherer said.
“The Corps admits that the deepening will make the already-present oxygen problems in the river worse,” he said. “To mitigate for making water quality worse, the Corps has proposed installing Speece cones, or bubblers, to re-oxygenate the river. Essentially, they're proposing to put the river on a respirator — one that has not been shown to be effective. The SELC is concerned about the impacts to the river and the precedent set by relying on such an unproven mitigation technique.”
Many state legislators as well, including Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, have said dredging will kill the river and hurt local water supply. http://bit.ly/AEvwY7
To see the research SELC used to makes its claims, click on the PDF documents attached to this post from the S.C. DNR, the SELC-hired consultant, U.S. Geological Survey and more.